Week 4 of the NFL season started with a bang, as the Los Angeles Rams and Minnesota Vikings played to a 38-31 shootout favoring LA. We probably won’t see a game as good as that, considering both are also Super Bowl-caliber teams. Nonetheless, there storylines to look forward and pay attention to. Here they are/
How Will the Patriots Respond?
In each of the past few seasons, the Patriots have started slow and had us wondering if that was the season that the dynasty would finally fall off the cliff. A lot of people would bite, but in every one of those seasons, they make us look like fools because the Pats always figure things out. And they are at it again this season, starting off 1-2 with back-to-back losses, in what feels like the first time in forever.
Last week against the Lions, they lost 26-10, and the defense once again looked, suspect, while the offense was paltry. Tom Brady looked his age and had a terrible game, throwing for 133 yards, one touchdown, and one pick, while completing just 53.8% of his passes. The offense totaled just one-third of the time of possession, which resulted in only 47 plays and 209 total yards. The Patriots totaled almost as many drives (10) as they did first downs (12), which is sad.
Now they go back home to face a Miami Dolphins team that is off to a surprising 3-0 start. I don’t remember the last time a Belichick-Brady squad every started 1-3, so this might be the most crucial September game they have ever faced because falling three games back with lost of issues might be too much for even them to overcome.
Can they finally solve their offensive issues? Will Josh Gordon play and help? It’s also worth mentioning that Bill Belichick has never been very successful during Septembers. His success largely comes in the later months of the season, once he figures out what works and what doesn’t.
The Rookie Quarterbacks
Baker Mayfield and Josh Rosen finally get to make their first-ever NFL starts this weekend after making their respective debuts off the bench during Week 3. All the eyes and hype will be on Mayfield after leading the Browns to their first win in 635 days. He is a polarizing sports figure that is already top-ten in jersey sales without even starting a game, showing his magnetism. And the Cardinals are hoping that Rosen will be an improvement over whatever Sam Bradford was giving them, which was nothing, and provide hope for the start of a new era.
This means all four passers that were taken in the top ten will be on full display for the first time this season. Sam Darnold makes his start against the loaded Jacksonville Jaguars defense, in what will be a long day for the rookie. Even though the odds are he will struggle, it’s always fun to see how a talented rookie underdog quarterback fares against the league’s best.
And Josh Allen is coming off his best start of his short career, although he did not have to do much. The Bills’ defense gave him tremendous field position throughout the game, so he did not have much pressure to work with. How will his encore be as they head to Lambeau to face the league’s best, but hobbled, signal-caller in Aaron Rodgers?
Will FitzMagic Earn Another Start?
Ryan Fitzpatrick continues to ride the hot streak. Wait, scratch that, he had a terrible second quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers which put the Bucs down 30-10 at halftime. It appeared as if his hot start finally came to an end and the Ryan Fitzpatrick cycle was going full circle again. But, FitzMagic returned in the second-half, scoring 17 unanswered and throwing two more touchdown passes, making it three on the night, and he had a third-straight game with 400 yards, which has never been done before.
The teammates love him, and he’s performing well, so Jameis Winston’s return will have to wait at least one more week. We know that the veteran will cool off eventually, but the question is “when?” He faces a strong Bears defense this weekend, and if he can impress against them, he will no-doubt get another shot in Week 5.
Can the Steelers Build Off Their Win
The Steelers finally picked up their first win of the season, but the most notable thing about them is how they are full of distractions. There is so much noise surrounding them for non-football purposes, whether it be the Le’Veon Bell’s holdout and his unfixable relationship with teammates, Antonio Brown seemingly involved in some drama all the time, and Ben Roethlisberger’s back-and-forth comments over the years regarding retirement and calling out his coaches.
They are 1-1-1 so far, and a fascinating one, because of their inconsistencies and storylines surrounding them. They are also an undisciplined bunch, leading the league in penalties comfortably. We will see on Sunday Night Football whether they will be able to put their talent together and start winning football games finally. They will be tested at home in a divisional matchup with a good Baltimore Ravens team. Will the defense eventually find a way to bend but not break? Stay tuned with this rollercoaster of a ride.